"Do you have a dollar?"
She was rifling through her purse as a man on the subway train played a zampoña, an Andean pan flute which served as decoration for every Latino-American household. It’s an Inca instrument, and my uncle once yelled at me for confusedly thinking the Incas may have also lived in Colombia.
"WHAT? No! They lived in Peru!"
"What about the Mayas?"
"THE MAYAS!? What the hell are they teaching you at this school?!"
I continued reading, imagining she was talking to somebody on her left side. But now she looked up at me, catching my eye as I looked up from my book, and asked again:
"Do you have anything? I wanna give him something."
She was a pretty young Latina, possibly Dominican. We had been sitting next to each other since I first got on the train and now I was apparently her boyfriend.
"Sorry," I muttered, and it was true. Though my innate NYC defense protocol warned me not to pull out my wallet to a stranger, no matter how many stops we sat next to each other.
"Oh wait, I got something. Here!" she called out to the man in the poncho as he collected money. I went back to my book and we ignored each other the rest of the way.
However, I couldn’t stop turning the incident over in my mind. Is she crazy? Should I just chalk it up to her being Dominican?
But then I had a new idea. Perhaps there was a slimy dude on the train making eye contact with her, and she wanted him to think I was her boyfriend. I had been wearing my jacket, making me seem more menacing than usual. This wasn’t an act of hubris or insanity, but a smart move on her part.
I liked that explanation, and I’m glad I started my day with a good deed.